Best Night Of My Life By Jamie Foxx
After finding success as stand-up comedian in the early 1990s, Jamie Foxx released the embarrassing New Jack Swing album, Peep This. Though it peaked at #78 in the Billboard Charts, it seemed that pop stardom wasn't in the cards for the former Eric Bishop, and for eleven years he released no follow-up album. Ten years later, after appearing in a string of mediocre comedies, Foxx received widespread critical acclaim for two high profile dramatic turns: that of Max in Michael Mann's Collateral, and his pitch-perfect mimicry of Ray Charles in the biopic Ray. Five months later he won the Best Actor Oscar for Ray, and the "star" of Jamie Foxx was born. It was probably around this time that Foxx began to reevaluate some of his artistic choices of the past. From the perspective of the actor who appeared in such films as Booty Call and The Players Club, the release of Peep This might have seemed to be something of a cheap, frivolous marketing tie-in or maybe even a novelty record. But, having recently won a prestigious acting award--an award which meant he was now every bit as good an actor as Denzel Washington--Foxx might have looked back upon Peep This with a kind of wistful melancholy. Perhaps he hadn't been wrong to pursue a music career in the first place; perhaps he was then, and now, pretty much good at everything. So, in 2005, Jamie Foxx made his triumphant return to "serious" R&B singing with Unpredictable which was, in turn, followed by 2008's Intuition, leading up to 2010's Best Night Of My Life, his latest album.
Beginning the proceedings is a jokey sort-of cover of Natalie Cole's 1975 hit "This Will Be" which, with slightly altered lyrics such as "This will be / another shot of 'trón" sets the tone for what will undoubtedly be an hour's worth of frothy, bubbly club bangers. "Best Night of My Life", though slightly marred by some cringe-inducing lyrics--especially as delivered by Wiz Khalifa--is a fine, jangly, major key pop ditty punctuated by light "snap"-style percussion and ultra-bright synth-bells; best of all, it's only three minutes long. It covers very little new ground, but it's refreshing to hear an anthem to clubbing that isn't even a bit misogynistic: at 43, the hopeless bachelor is still widely known for his philandering antics, but the title track seems to find him out 'a-wooing of a Saturday night and is, for this reason, sweetly touching. Following right on the heels of this cute little track is a song called "Living Better Now"... wait a minute... this is odd... is this creepy, menacing Neptunes-inspired gangsta rap with a rockified chorus featuring the treacherous Rick Ross and a sample of the voice of The Notorious B.I.G.? Sure, why not?! If this doesn't already sound quite strange, producer Bink--who provided the standout track "Devil in a New Dress" for Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy--had also added some druggy, dub-y delay effects to his drum patterns. With its disjointed structure, the track nearly falls flat on its face and, if nothing else, is an amusing experiment--but it's also nice to hear Foxx concede that he is a "veteran" and that there isn't anything wrong with that, surely an encouragement to other over-the-hill rock stars still not ready to pack it in.
Following this is lead-single "Winner" featuring J.T. (who co-produces) and T.I., which is good enough, featuring an excellent vocal performance by Justin Timberlake, an okay one by Jamie Foxx and a competent rap by T.I.--all in all the track is really nothing special and essentially just brainless "Heavy Urban" pop that sounds destined to play during the intro to Monday Night Football. Similarly, the "Thriller"-referencing "Freak," featuring Rico Love, is fairly undercooked, possibly a bit too simplistic and lacks a strong, or really any sort of, chorus. Most of the instrumentation of "Hit It Like This" relies upon dense overdubs of Foxx's voice--a wise choice since it was already thin to begin with. For most of the album, Foxx relies a bit too heavily upon a weak breathy whisper and hammy auto-tune effects: whoever has processed his vocals has gone about it rather haphazardly, the end result sounding rather choppy and unwieldy; it's telling that the quality of Foxx's vocals on tracks like "This Will Be" and "Best Night of My Life" can only be achieved by singing completely off-key into a filter programmed to contour pitches to a very specific musical mode, something one usually only hears it in things like "auto-tune the news" YouTube videos.
The Soulja Boy and Ludacris collab "Yep Dat's Me" is a scattershot jumble of gangsta rap clichés; sentimental ballad and third single "Fall For Your Type" never really develops into anything and features an especially weak and whiny vocal performance by Foxx and, similar to the former--and probably much worse--"Sleeping Pill" is also a bit of a mess, lacking any sort of recognizable structure and relying too heavily on R&B clichés. Though it's one of the album's better tracks, "Gorgeous" serves as a reminder of why words with short syllables don't really work as song lyrics: if the syllable is short then the note will be short as well; also, the more Foxx says "Gorgeous" it begins to sound like "gorges," effectively making this a ballad to geomorphology. With its creepy pitched-down vocals and a serpentine performance by Jamie Foxx, the 90-second, weirdo interlude "Let Me Get You On Your Toes" is actually one of the most unintentionally brilliant tracks on the album: much in the same sense that a vocalist who cannot sustain notes for very long can excel at performing songs with clipped phrases, a personality as affected and roughly defined as that of Foxx's "R&B star" can effectually sustain the listener's interest in this truncated format.
"Rejoice" is a bit dull and formulaic but mildly enjoyable; "All Said and Done" doesn't seem to fit into any recognizable genre: though it's not clear if this is intentional or accidental innovation, it's still fairly interesting and one of the more listenable tracks on the album. Concluding the set is an--I'm sure "homagistic"--tribute to The Black Eyed Peas, "Sex on the Beach," which is shoddy at best. Best Night of My Life's--I still don't understand why the album's title does not include the definite article, "the"--best track is the R. Kelly-esque "15 Minutes"--it's very R. Kelly-esque actually: replete with his trademark "sx lullaby"-aesthetic and synth-harps--but is this song an embarrassing admission of some kind?
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